Flood defence failings criticised as Storm Ciaran batters Britain

Floods near Kirby Wiske in North Yorkshire Following Storm Babet (image: Dreamstime)
Floods near Kirby Wiske in Yorkshire following Storm Babet (Image: Dreamstime)

Research by Greenpeace has highlighted the poor condition of flood defences across England – as Storm Ciaran brings further heavy rain and high winds across the country.

More than 4,000 flood defences were rated as poor or very poor in inspections carried out by the Environment Agency (EA) last year, Greenpeace Unearthed said.

Only last week, MPs in Derbyshire and Yorkshire called for a review of EA failings after homes in their constituencies were flooded during Storm Babet.

England has 64,000 ‘high consequence’ flood defences, but 4,200 were rated as either being in poor or very poor condition in 2022, Greenpeace discovered following a freedom of information request.

“This means that 7% of the country’s most important flood defences are deemed to be in a poor state, according to data obtained under freedom of information rules. Nearly 900 of the defences – 1.3% of the total – were judged to be in very poor condition,” the organisation added.

Only 3% of all England’s high consequence defences were deemed ‘very good’ while a third were classed ‘good’. The majority – 57% – were rated ‘fair’.

Maintained by third parties

The majority of England’s vital flood defences are maintained by the EA, but more than a quarter are privately owned and maintained by unnamed third parties. The Greenpeace Unearthed data shows that privately-owned defences are nearly twice as likely to be in poor condition: 1,500 of privately owned defences – 9% of the total – were in a poor or very poor condition last year, compared with 5% of assets maintained by the EA.

The EA said that “the total number of properties reported to have been flooded [during Storm Babet] stands at 2,146. We will work to understand if more could be done to better protect these properties in future.”

It has warned of “possible significant inland flooding across parts of England from Wednesday to Friday due to Storm Ciaran, with some significant coastal impacts also possible”.

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  1. The EA are clearly not doing enough to prevent the flooding which has affected many communities around the country. They need a complete overhaul to prevent flooding in the future.

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